I was following the scoring from Local Final Qualifying (LFQ) for the Open Championship this week as a couple of guys from this neck of the woods were in the running to secure a spot at Royal St George’s. With only three places available at each of the four qualifying venues, it’s incredibly difficult to make it through to the tournament proper via this route. Each event features a selection of established Tour professionals and elite amateurs, hungry for the chance to appear on golf’s grandest stage.
James Byrne, a Banchory member and the 2010 Amateur Championship runner-up, was trying to make it through at Rye. He’s narrowly missed out on qualification in both of the last two seasons, just two shots shy in 2009 and then in a playoff in 2010. When I tell you he shot 67, 69 at Rye, you might think he would have breezed through. But, such was the standard that he ended in a tie for 13th. See what I mean about it being a tough school?
Leading the way at Rye was another talented young amateur, Tom Lewis from Welwyn Garden City. We’ve followed Tom’s progress via the amateur news pages of Golf Monthly for some time and have tipped him for future success. The 20-year-old was the 2009 British Boys champion and earlier this year he won the St Andrews Links Trophy. At Rye he shot two superb rounds of 63 and 65 to finish three ahead of the field. Watch out for him at St George’s, he might just do a Chris Wood.
There were some well-known players who failed to make it through LFQ. Amongst them were Paul Broadhurst, Peter Baker, Zane Scotland, Jarmo Sandelin and 2005 US Open champion Michael Campbell – Cambo came up just one shot short at Prince’s. The New Zealander keeps threatening to make a return to the upper echelons of the game but just can’t quite seem to get there.
Another Aberdonian, Scott Henderson, was in the shake-up at Royal Cinque Ports. He ended his two rounds on four-under-par, in a tie for second place with three other players. He then, agonisingly, missed out on a spot at Sandwich in the resulting playoff. Can you imagine the pressure in that situation? It’s you versus three others for a chance to play in the Open Championship. I don’t know how anyone could stand up to it.
I can’t stand the pressure if I’m on the verge of missing the buffer zone. As soon as I think something good is going to happen in my golfing world, my brain goes into overdrive and my hands start to feel as though they belong to someone else. My inability to cope when the heat is on was displayed all too well in the second round of our Club Championship last night.
In round one on Monday I shot a solid, yet unspectacular, round of 68. I felt calm and in control, finding 15 greens in regulation and holing a couple of decent putts. At no point did I feel any nerves or pressure.
But last night, knowing I was only one shot off the lead, I played defensively from the first tee. My score and position were buzzing around my head like an irritated wasp. “Right, I’m two-over. That’s one-over for the whole event. If I can birdie the 6th and 10th, I’ll be back to level. Maybe I could afford to drop a shot at the 13th then pick one up at the 15th… as long as I don’t duff this chip… oh dear.”
I played the entire round feeling incredibly tense and became increasingly frustrated as my score to par rose steadily. By the end I was just hoping the ball might go in the hole rather than thinking rationally about how best to do it. I finished with a 75 and have played myself out of the running.
The only positive is that, now I don’t have a realistic chance to win the event, I’ll probably play round three feeling relaxed and comfortable again. In fact, I can already see it. I’ll post a good third round score, get myself back into a reasonable position then bottle it again in round four as I start to think that I could sneak my way into the top five. Thank God I’ll never have to face Open Qualifying.
Opinion: More thoughts from the Golf Monthly team